When artist Suzanne Werder talks about the elderly, wisdom and beauty are characteristics often at the forefront of the conversation. She says these qualities, though, are the ones often overlooked in our society that’s centrally focused on its youth. So Werder is on a mission, intent on redrawing the way we see our aging population. By sharing their stories through portraits, Werder says she is able to show the extraordinary within the ordinary.
“A portrait of someone can reveal the spark of individuality as well as a glimpse of our shared humanity.”
Awesome Pittsburgh awarded Werder a $1,000 grant, which she is using to help fund this project. Werder travels to area nursing homes, retirement communities, and also visits independent elderly. She listens to their narratives, often connecting with their personal stories. These stories, along with the portraits she creates, will be showcased in a future art show that will travel to the different assisted living facilities. It is important, she says, to bring the joy of art to an often underserved community. Werder also says this will give their families something to remember them by after they pass.
Awesome Trustee Evelyn Castillo notes that with Pittsburgh’s growing number of elderly,
“It’s important to celebrate projects that engage this segment of society. Engaging seniors helps alleviate loneliness. By telling their stories through art, seniors can feel connected.”
A sense of connection is exactly what Werder hopes to accomplish. “My artwork focuses on undervalued materials and undervalued people, seeking to give voice to silenced people by creating ways of seeing and listening to them. I look to raise the profiles of individuals within marginalized groups and share their stories,” she says.